Jimi said it best….Are You Experienced? Well, if I wasn’t I am now! My inauspicious first day turned into a truly awesome week in many ways. And I don’t even know where to begin! Wednesday was “Tree Day” so there was no school for me. It was a day when students come to the school to help clean it up and plant trees. They also managed to patch up the hole in the ceiling quite nicely. I did find out that the school was financed (in part) and built by my host family father and his twin brother along with a number of other prominent citizens a number of years ago. So they have a very vested interest in maintaining the school in operating condition.
So instead of going to school on Wednesday, I went into Skopje and did shopping for our cooking class and then got a wonderful tour of the old Turkish Bazaar. What a delight that was. I actually found my жалфија (sage) and a beautiful duvet cover and pillow cover for my new granddaughter to be born in March. (not terribly practical but beautiful none the less). It was sensory overload going through there. I don’t think there is anything in the world you can’t find in this bazaar if you look hard enough. When we came out on the other side of it, we were in the Center of town and right next to a shop specializing in antiques and…..stamps! Cross the Stone Bridge and right in the center of town is a wonderful mall that also happens to have a French bakery. Heavenly and extremely tasty pastries. Needless to say I was exhausted upon my return home.
I am the deputy warden for the Skopje area of Macedonia (I will be the senior warden next year). My responsibilities lie primarily in the area of monitoring what is happening locally and helping in the case of an emergency. To that end, I had to have training in what exactly is expected of me. So Thursday that is exactly what I did–go into the Peace Corps office and get trained. After that was over, I went to the City Mall, purchased a 5 m. long extension cord and then headed off to the American Corner for a baking session. My fellow volunteer met me there. Interestingly enough, another brand new PC volunteer was there to volunteer her services as well. She is going to do a book group for young adults. We got set up for our cookie decorating session that night and waited for the eager participants to show up. They had a wonderful time and again, I arrived home exhausted. But not before I had agreed to do some kind of activity with a group of 11 year olds on Saturday morning at the Corner.
Friday I was back in school and immediately thrust into a class. As PCV’s we are never supposed to have a class all to ourselves. Well, not only did I have a class but it was Macedonian class! There is no such thing as a substitute teacher here. So it is either a warm body at the teacher’s table or leave the kids to their own devices for 40 minutes. And apparently the Macedonian teacher has been out for two months! Oy vey! And they were 9th graders! Fortunately we only had about 10 minutes until I was rescued. However, after that, I had another class all my own but this time it was an English class of 6th graders who were the most lovable and adoring students you could ask for. Two sets of twins in the class were adorable. Absolutely had a ball and knew that this is going to be an amazing two years!
Now my Boy Scout training has to kick in figure out something to do with a bunch of students on Saturday morning. I know–let’s focus on Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Teach them the song, tell them the story and then we will make pictures of reindeer tracing a foot for the face and our hands for antlers. Color, decorate and share and voila! I’m done! Another fun day at the corner. And did I mention how close the Corner is to the bazaar and City Center?
I did my first business negotiation in the bazaar. Got a bunch of stamps from Macedonia for 1800 denari. The proprietor originally wanted 2400 but I told him I just could’t afford that so we negotiated until we got to 1800 denari. Felt quite pleased with myself. I probably over paid but still I negotiated! And I made a friend in the process. He told me to come back another time and look at more of his stamps.
Monday is a holiday so I have another day to recover from my busy week. It is St. Clement of Ohrid Day. Then on Tuesday it is back to school and more adventures in navigating the Macedonian School System, Albanian Style. I find that I have a number of very interesting discussions with my host family about the disparity in how the government deals with Albanian vs. Macedonian Schools. A number of years ago when the Albanians demanded a voice in the government they were also given the right to have schools that were taught in Albanian. So they in effect have their own school system but it still falls under the jurisdiction of the Macedonian Ministry of Education.
And speaking of Albanian/Shqip language. I have been looking at the language tree of Indo-European languages and it appears that Albanian is on a branch all of its own as is Armenian (one of the other country choices I had) . I think this picture is fascinating whether you are a linguist or not. It really says a lot about how we all sort of speak the same language.